In memoriam, September 2015


Elena Khudiakova, the Russian artist, designer and friend of Francis Bacon, died on 3 June, aged 57. Born in Moscow, she studied at the Moscow Architectural Institute, but in her 20s decided to become a fashion designer. Her clothes attracted interest in the West, and in 1985 she became acquainted with the English art dealer James Birch, then working on an exhibition of Bacon’s works in Moscow. Through Birch she became friends with the artist, who admired her creations and enjoyed her company. She also assisted in the creation of an exhibition of works by Gilbert and George in Moscow in 1990. Some of her works were bought by the art collector Charles Saatchi.

Shigeko Kubota, the video sculptor and widow of Nam June Paik, died on 23 July, aged 77. Born in Niigata, Japan, Kubota studied sculpture at Tokyo University of Education, from which she took her degree in 1960. She was drawn to New York by the Fluxus movement and was much influenced by Paik, Yoko Ono, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. She married Paik in the 1970s, recorded his recovery from a stroke in her video installation Sexual Healing (1998), and made a number of works in his honour after his death in 2006.  

Charles Goldstein, a New York property lawyer and advocate for the return of art looted by the Nazis, died on 30 July, aged 78. Goldstein graduated from Columbia University in 1958 and Harvard Law School in 1961. By 1982 he headed the largest real estate department of any law firm in New York City. In the early 1990s a chance encounter introduced him to the art collector Ronald Lauder, who went on to establish the Commission for Art Recovery in 1997. Lauder hired Goldstein as legal adviser to the commission. Goldstein was involved in a number of highly publicised cases, notably the restitution of Courbet’s Femme Nue Couchée in 2002 and of Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer in 2006.

John Henry Merryman, a pioneer in the field of art law, died on 3 August, aged 95. Merryman studied chemistry at the University of Portland, Oregon, from which he received his degree in 1942. He studied law at the University of Notre Dame and took further degrees from the New York University School of Law. In 1953, he joined the law faculty of Stanford University, where remained until his death. He inaugurated “Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts”, the first course of its kind, in 1971 and went on to teach, publish and lecture on tax, copyright, contracts, regulation, cultural and intellectual property, ethics and the ownership of antiquities.

Khaled Al-Asaad, an archaeologist and expert on Palmyrene history, was murdered on 18 August, aged 81. Born in Syria in 1934, he studied history and education at the University of Damascus. He began his career at Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) in 1963 as the director of antiquities at the ancient Roman city of Palmyra. He oversaw activities at the Unesco World Heritage Site for 40 years until his retirement in 2003, after which he continued to work with DGAM. He worked with foreign missions from France, Switzerland, Germany and the US on their excavations at the site. Al-Asaad was killed by Isil militants, who gained control of the city in May. He was beheaded reportedly for refusing to help Isil find antiquities.

Ingrid Sischy, the editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine for nearly 20 years, died on 24 July, aged 63. Born in Johannesburg, her family moved first to Edinburgh and then, in 1967, to New York. In 1979 she became the editor of Artforum and in 1989 she was appointed editor-in-chief of the magazine, Interview, founded by Warhol in 1969. She remained in charge until 2008. Her parting gift was to oversee the publication of a seven-volume anthology of the magazine’s highlights in celebration of its 35th anniversary. That same year, she and her spouse, Sandra Brant, a driving force of Brant Publications, sold their shares in Interview and were named the European editors of the international editions of Vanity Fair.